Free falling.

T

oday got rolling just about the time I got up. I told you that I was going to get busy. I didn’t think that I meant right this second.

I thought I could cruise into the work a little bit at a time. Silly me.

I made my first mistake when I started listening to music. I started with something soft, slow and nostalgic. I almost couldn’t get started. I switched things up. I started Playing a playlist called “Ray’s Mix.”

Yeah. That’s me. I made it when I thought making play lists on Spotify was important. It’s loud. It’s s noisy. And, I know all the words.

Anyway.

This one will keep me working for hours.

I’ll keep this short. Work awaits.

Darn.

D

o you want technique? This one should fill you up. To the top.

The picture really is about nothing. Since all art is autobiographical what does that say about me?

That aside, this was a picture made from desperation. Or, it was an attempt to come back from wandering in the wilderness.

I made the picture, developed it and thought, “Now what?”

I removed a lot of color and muted it. Then, I tinkered around with different modification filters until I came to this place.

The picture highlights something I’ve been saying, and saying, and saying…

Go outside and take a picture. You’ll find one, or it will find you.


Nature’s power.

Nature.

I made this picture as an attempt to describe nature’s power. I’m not sure if it works, but I had fun doing the post production.

Post production beyond developing a digital image should be just that. Fun. And, it’s just that that makes working this way easy to do.

That’s another thing. There are photographic processes that are a struggle. They should be.

Other technical phases should be so much fun, that as my old Singaporian friend said, they are hobby jobs. Something that you work at that doesn’t feel like a job. That’s what most of the basic phases of photography are to me.

Of course, that came from years of working at them.

Like, that 10,000 hours thing. A lot of people set out to debunk that theory by doing it. They said it didn’t work because they didn’t improve. Of course it works. It works when you focus on which 10,000 hours. If you are just putting in the time without concern for quality it can’t possibly work. If you are focused on your work the process takes over. You learn. You grow.

That’s how photography became fun for me. It could be for you, too.

There are other little pro tricks.

Get out of your comfort zone. Work when you don’t feel like working. Learn the tools while you are doing something else.

The picture

I call this a video picture. I made it while we were watching a video. I don’t remember which one, but it’s likely something on Netflix. It’s also likely that it was something in English.We do watch a lot of foreign movies, but you have to concentrate with while watching them.

It starts with a base image. In this case, those bursting purple flowers. Then I add layers. If they don’t work I remove them and start again. The shape and color matters. Eventually I get to a place where adding anything else is too much. I fine tune them and give them to you.

Stay Safe. Stay mighty. You know what to do. Enjoy working on your art. Whatever it is.


Among the Notes.

I need to get out more.

I made the portrait before I returned to New Orleans. I was back for a visit when I ran into this guy on the street in The French Quarter. He’s an old friend. We had a coffee and went our own ways. I thought, at the time, that it was very cool and I could have my old friends back if I just returned. So, I did.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Many old friends were leaving. Even the man in the picture. He moved to Breaux Bridge. A place that’s become home to all sorts of musicians. Famous ones. regional players. Local players. This guy has a pretty good statewide reputation as a fiddle and accordion player. He is also a pretty good Cajun singer.

That’s his story. And, the base portrait is his picture. He’s used to being photographed so taking a picture of him in a coffee shop is no big deal. Actually, if you’re around me for any length of time, you get used to being photographed.

The picture. You know about the portrait. The rest is my usual odd bits and pieces of information. I did do a lot of work in OnOne. The picture as it emerged from Snapseed was just too raw and kind of glaring. So, I needed to finish it and help the color to settle down some.


One giant smile.
One giant smile.

Where do I start?

Probably with more sadness. A lot of you know this is a pretty musical house. And, I tell you this is getting old. Very old. Probably one of my favorite Glenn Frey songs goes a little like this…

“There’s trouble on the streets tonight
I can feel it in my bones, I had a premonition
That he should not go alone
I knew the gun was loaded
But I didn’t think he’d kill
Everything exploded, and the blood began to spill
So baby, here’s your ticket
Put the suitcase in your hand, here’s a little money now
Do it just the way we planned
You be cool for twenty hours, and I’ll pay you twenty grand
I’m sorry it went down like this
And someone had to lose, it’s the nature of the business
It’s the smuggler’s blues, smuggler’s blues”

— Smugglers Blues — Glenn Frey & Jack Tempchin

— RIP Glenn Frey

You know where I work. That may be why I like this song. It just wrote to a friend of mine that I work in “sporty” neighborhoods.

Anyway.

I thought I’d talk about portraits. Street portraits. Ones that are made in a few minutes. Ones the depend on a smile, a little photographer’s patter, good situational knowledge, knowing your gear and a lot of luck.

So, let’s start. There’s a lot of talk about street photography these days. Actually, that’s getting a little old too. It started when Fuji, Olympus and Sony started releasing small but high quality cameras. Overnight, seemingly, all sorts  people became street photographers. Yes. Of course street photography was around long before that. I could rattle off about 50 names of really good street practitioners. Mostly, they worked with Leicas. Their pictures defined street photography. If they didn’t directly engage their subjects, they made pictures that told a story.

Today? Not so much.

There are pictures floating around all over the internet that claim to be examples of street photography. The pictures have been taken from across the street, from behind the apparent subject, often from the hip.

Hmmm.

It appears the people who took the pictures were afraid of their subjects. That’s no good. I’m not sure that the bulk of those pictures mean anything. To anybody. Yeah. Sure, sometimes a picture taken from behind the subject adds to the graphics of the image and tells a story. Sometimes, it’s the light that makes the picture shot across the street. But, that’s rare. As in maybe one out of a thousand. Or more.

So I say, engage your subject. Talk to them. Make a friend. Don’t sneak up behind them. Take a portrait. It’s not the easiest thing to do. I’m sort of shy. At times I can be awfully introverted. Stick a camera in my hand and I’m Superman. I’m not stupid fearless, but my personality changes. I guess I like learning about people. I like seeing them be real in their real place. In their neighborhood.  During a quiet moment in a normally chaotic event.

Here’s few things that I like to do.

I try real hard to make an environmental portrait. The person and their place. But, I’m fluid and flexible. Sometime a frame filling face makes the picture. Like the lead picture on this post. Or, the picture I call “Star-Star.” It’s also not the “decisive moment.” That’s different kind of street photography.

The second thing I believe is that you have to know your photo gear. You can’t be fumbling around while you are trying to take a picture of somebody that you just met two minutes ago.

Third. Smile. This is supposed to be fun. You’ll set your subject at ease.

Fourth. Don’t sneak around. Ask. Talk. If your intended subject asks why you are taking the picture, tell them what attracted them to you. See the picture called “It’s all in the signs?” I quickly explained that he was standing in front of a great background. When I was about half-finished I flipped the camera around and showed him the picture on the LCD. Once he saw that, he started using his hands. Yes. He is the proud — I hope — owner of a signed Ray Laskowitz print.

Fifth. This is a huge benefit. You know how I wrote I work in sporty neighborhoods? I’ve made myself known to enough people that I’m fairly safe because of that.

Oh. See that picture called, “New Work?” It’s really new. I made that on Sunday walking back from the second line. I saw the sign. I saw the man. I asked if he minded. He nodded for me to take pictures. I think he’s a ringer. Heh! He kept moving through the light in various poses. He knew what he was doing. Sometimes that happens. That makes me smile.

 


Mysterious
Mysterious

This is a symbol. An icon.

There’s been a lot of debate in The United States about symbols, flags and meanings. It started with murders. In New Orleans, it has gotten strange, with the mayor wanting to remove statues. Some people are cheering. Others are appalled.

This picture isn’t about any of that. I’m not getting into it. The real issues have devolved into well, nothing. Just yelling and screaming. This picture is about ways of making what could normally be a boring subject a little more exciting.

This is a bronze religious statue. You could use a flash and light it up. You could also make a strictly documentary picture, showing exactly what you saw. You could wait for people to move into the frame.

Some of that takes a little time and patience. Some of that takes technical skill. All of them are reasonable options.

Or…

You could walk around, look at the light and take no pictures until you see what the light is really doing. In this case. I took the picture through temple candles, focusing on the subject using a very shallow depth of field. This made the picture a little moody and a little mysterious. All those out of focus circles? The proper term, I guess, is bubble bokeh. I just think they are a kind of out of focus specular highlight.

What do I know?


Carriage House
Carriage House

Well, I peeked through the key crack
Comin’ down the hall
Was a long-legged man
Who couldn’t hardly crawl
He muttered and he uttered
In broken French
And he looked like he’d been through
A monkey wrench

— Copyright © 1970 & @1990 Bob Dylan/Special Rider Music from the song “New Orleans Rag.”


Jumping through rain drops.
Jumping through rain drops.

I almost forgot.

Yesterday would have been be Henri Cartier Bresson’s 100 birthday. For those of you who don’t know of him, he was my photographic grandfather. He was that to a couple of generations of photographers.

He was maybe best known for the phrase “decisive moment.”

When the 35mm Leica camera was created, he adopted it and pretty much began working in a style that we call today, “street photography.” He pioneered a lot of things. He called it “Life Reportage.”

Interestingly, he studied painting as a young man. He returned to it as an old man. In between, he photographed… exclusively in black and white.

But, during those middle years. Oh boy.

He realized that “a photograph could fix an eternity in an instant.” In 1931 he acquired a Leica with a 50mm lens. By 1932, he was already showing his work, having photographed in Berlin, Brussels, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and Madrid. In 1934 he met Robert Capa and David Seymour. Eventually, after the end of World War II, they would go on to found Magnum Photos along with George Rodger and William Vandevert. He continued to work everywhere. He was in India when Gandhi was buried. He was in China when Mao lead the revolution. He went to the Dutch East Indies to document their rise to independence.

He retired during the 1970s. By 1975, he stopped taking pictures. He returned to painting. He died in 2004 at age 95.

This picture is about the best I can do to honor is work. I made it at the lake. Last week. Google around, and you’ll find his original photograph. The one that influenced me. I’d post a link but, I’m going with the parable of the fishes today.

I’ll leave you with this, because it sums up very nicely what I feel. He was more articulate than I am. Read his very last line. Read it about 20 times. Memorize it. That’s all you have to know.

“Constant new discoveries in chemistry and optics are widening considerably our field of action. It is up to us to apply them to our technique, to improve ourselves, but there is a whole group of fetishes which have developed on the subject of technique. Technique is important only insofar as you must master it in order to communicate what you see… The camera for us is a tool, not a pretty mechanical toy. In the precise functioning of the mechanical object perhaps there is an unconscious compensation for the anxieties and uncertainties of daily endeavor. In any case, people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing.”

—Henri Cartier-Bresson


Somewhere in the middle of Central City, New Orleans.
Somewhere in the middle of Central City, New Orleans.

You know how it is. It’s Saturday night. The house is clean. The shopping is done. The dogs are washed and dried. The lawn is mowed. Your night is free. But, you just don’t feel like dealing with crowds. Waitstaff. Bartenders. Crowds. Lost tourists.

You watch a movie. Maybe the baseball playoffs. But, that isn’t doing it. Maybe some music? Nah. Not tonight.

So, what to do? Pictures. That’s it,  pictures. I like experimenting with pictures. So, that’s what I did. I made this picture some time ago. But, I pretty much left it as I saw it. It wasn’t all that interesting. So, I didn’t publish it anywhere.

But, boredom set in. So I went to work. I used my usual software. But, I started looking in different places. I took my experimentation to different levels. This is the result. What did I do? I know that’s your next question. I wish I could tell you. But, I zigged. I zagged. I went backwards. I went forwards. I went inside. I went outside. I adjusted colors. Tones. Light levels. Contrast. All that stuff. The stuff that you do without really thinking about it. But, this time I thought about it. It works for me. A lot. I hope that it works for you. I hope that you like it.

 


A complete view of The Kenilworth Plantation Mansion.
A complete view of The Kenilworth Plantation Mansion.

So. Yesterday. I posted my more artistic version of the Kenilworth Plantation Mansion. I though it would a good idea if I showed you what the place really looks like. Actually, I was told it would be a good idea. Ha!

This is the wide angle version of the tight view I posted yesterday. I also changed up the work I did in post production a bit. Well, a lot. In this version, I wanted the picture to have a sort of old quality, without overdoing it to the point where it was obvious.

Oh yeah, just in case you want to go there. 2932 Bayou Road. St. Bernard Parish. But, let me advise that you cannot take Bayou Road directly from New Orleans. Bayou Road is closed upriver just before you get to this area. Yep. Remaining Katrina damage. So, you have to go around and double back.